Taking care of your skin health is an important, yet often overlooked, part of general wellness. Using skin care products is one way to manage common skin conditions — like acne, which affects up to 50 million Americans annually.

However, knowing the right products to use can be challenging. Licensed dermatologists are a great resource to get a personalized skin care regimen for your skin type and concerns. But a visit to the dermatologist’s office can be time-consuming and expensive.

If you’re looking for professional help with your skin, but you don’t have the time or budget to see a dermatologist in person, online services, like Curology, could have the solution for you.

Pros

  • Products are made with prescription active ingredients.
  • They offer a free 30-day trial.
  • You choose your shipment frequency: monthly or every 2 months.
  • They have a strong community.
  • There are positive consumer reviews.
  • The Curology Access Program provides free 2-year subscriptions to people who qualify.
  • You can push back shipments or cancel whenever.
  • You can message your provider with consultation credits.
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Cons

  • Your personal provider is not a licensed dermatologist, but rather a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who’s overseen by a dermatologist.
  • Oral medications aren’t provided.
  • Curology doesn’t accept health insurance.
  • Users must commit to a subscription billed every 1 or 2 months.
  • The brief skin assessment is not as thorough as an in-person appointment.
  • There’s no face-to-face interaction with your provider.
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Curology started in 2014 with the mission to simplify skin care, which can leave consumers frustrated and searching for answers to their skin problems.

Founded by Dr. David Lortscher, a licensed dermatologist from New Mexico, Curology sought out to make luxury skin care products accessible to everyone.

In response to the shortage of dermatologists in the United States, and inspired by the effectiveness of telemedicine services, Lortscher created the first-ever online dermatology practice with his brother and mother.

All that Curology has to offer can be accessed online. By filling out a brief skin assessment, you can communicate your skin concerns to a professional, whom Curology calls a provider. Based on your unique skin needs, the provider will prescribe you a custom skin care formula.

Though Curology has a special focus on clearing acne-prone skin, the service can help treat a range of skin concerns and conditions: hormonal acne, cystic acne, dry skin, hyperpigmentation, dark spots, fine lines, blackheads, and more.

Signing up for Curology is notoriously easy. First, you’ll be prompted to see if Curology is available in your area. You’ll also enter some basic information, such as your birthday and email address.

Once you create a free account, it’s time to fill out a brief questionnaire about your skin, medical history, allergies, and other relevant information.

This is key for your provider to better understand your skin goals, so the medical team can choose the appropriate active ingredients for your custom routine.

After the checkout process, you’ll be matched with a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant who is overseen by a licensed dermatologist and trained in dermatology. They’ll review your skin assessment and prescribe a custom skin formula accordingly.

Next, sit back and wait for your customized skin care regimen to arrive at your doorstep.

Since Curology is a subscription service, you’ll continue to receive skin care products on a monthly basis.

Your first order is usually a free trial (just pay for shipping and handling). Additional orders are charged at the standard rate.

Curology is heavily targeted toward people with acne-prone skin. If you experience hormonal acne, cystic acne, blackheads, or breakouts of any kind, Curology may be worth a shot.

The founder of Curology originally started the company because most people don’t realize how easy it can be to treat acne with clinically proven prescription ingredients.

Since these ingredients aren’t sold in over-the-counter skin care products, the nationwide battle against breakouts continues with very little relief. Curology makes these ingredients affordable and accessible.

Curology can also be beneficial for people seeking professional help with their skin who don’t have the time and financial commitment for an in-person dermatologist visit.

Since Curology users get paired with a medical team member, it’s an opportunity to get professional advice without leaving your home.

Custom formula

Based on the information you input in your skin assessment, Curology’s medical team will formulate a custom skin care treatment for your needs.

The custom formula usually contains a combination of active ingredients, such as clindamycin, azelaic acid, tretinoin, niacinamide, and zinc pyrithione.

Since the custom formula may contain ingredients that are sensitive to sunlight, Curology recommends applying this product in the evening.

Dark spot formula

Curology’s dark spot formula is formulated with prescription ingredients, like hydroquinone, to fade areas of darkened skin and hyperpigmentation.

This is applied daily for a limited time of 3 months before giving your skin a 2-month break. It’s not applied all over the face. Rather, it’s made to be used as a limited-time spot treatment for affected areas.

The cleanser

Curology’s cleanser is gentle, so it’s safe for sensitive skin. It’s also noncomedogenic, fragrance-free, hypoallergenic, and more.

It aims to gently cleanse away impurities without stripping the skin of its natural moisture or causing dryness, tightness, or irritation.

The cleanser is formulated with plant sugars that lock in moisture and oat extract to soothe inflamed skin.

The moisturizer

The cleanser comes with your choice of two moisturizers: the moisturizer and the rich moisturizer. The first is suitable for normal and oily skin.

The moisturizer’s lightweight gel texture is buildable, so you can apply as little or as much as you’d like. The star ingredient is hyaluronic acid, which helps the skin retain water.

The rich moisturizer

The rich moisturizer is tailored to dry or aging skin.

It has a creamy texture that first hydrates the skin and then locks in moisture with a blend of six hydrating ingredients, including hyaluronic acid and shea butter.

Acne body wash

Curology’s acne body wash is formulated with 2 percent salicylic acid, a chemical exfoliant that helps unclog pores, treat acne, and prevent acne all over the body.

For people who have acne on the chest and back, this foaming body wash may help. Though it’s tough on acne, it’s gentle enough for daily use.

Emergency spot patches

Emergency spot patches look like little stickers, but they’re actually hydrocolloid bandages.

This material is absorbent and can draw out sebum while maintaining a moist environment that encourages skin healing. These are convenient for emergency situations to calm breakouts. But they’re not designed as a long-term solution for treating acne.

Oral medications

Curology does not provide oral medications, but some treatment plans may require them.

If your medical team member recommends an oral medication, the prescription will be sent to your local pharmacy for pickup.

If you like free trials, you’ll enjoy getting started with Curology. New users are eligible for a free 30-day trial. Just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling.

After the trial period, Curology pricing starts at $19.95 per shipment. Shipments are delivered once per month or every 2 months, depending on your selection.

Some products include free shipping while others incur an additional $4.95 shipping fee.

Each shipment includes a 1-month supply or 2-month supply of your custom formula. The smaller bottle is priced at $19.95 per month plus shipping, while the larger bottle is $39.90 for a 2-month period with free shipping.

You also have the option to add other products to your monthly subscription, including the moisturizer and cleanser set for $20 per shipment, the acne body wash for $18 per shipment, and the emergency spot patches for $4.95 per shipment.

Curology doesn’t accept health insurance. If you’re prescribed an oral medication, it may be covered by your health insurance plan, but it’s not fulfilled through Curology.

Curology is a HIPAA-compliant company.

All of your information, including photos of your skin, are used for medical diagnosis purposes only and will not be shared without your explicit consent.

According to consumer reviews, Curology is well-received by customers. Real Curology users have uploaded before and after photos showing their results. Along with clearer skin, Curology customers report increased confidence.

Curology claims to never incentivize users to leave positive reviews in the effort of transparency.

However, one common complaint about Curology is the purge period. This is when your skin appears to break out more often at the beginning of a new skin care routine.

Curology has addressed this with the explanation that skin purging is normal and expected when introducing prescription acne ingredients for the first time. This simply means that the ingredients are doing their job to bring breakouts to the surface to get rid of them.

Curology also has a strong community. The members-only community is used to uplift one another. The Curology community is also strong on social media.

Curology makes it easy to get started. Most customers begin with the free trial period before choosing to continue with regular shipments on a monthly basis or every other month.

To get started, go to Curology.com.

All you’ll need is an internet connection, smart device, such as a cellphone or computer, and a few minutes of your time. You’ll also need to enter your payment information to finish the sign-up process.

Does Curology work?

Based on survey responses, Curology works for 88 percent of people.

Their prescription-strength ingredients and access to medical professionals make Curology an effective skin care solution for many. However, one solution doesn’t work for everyone.

Should I avoid other products while using Curology?

To avoid using ingredients that conflict with Curology products, it’s recommended to avoid using physical exfoliants, chemical exfoliants (AHAs and BHAs), vitamin C, retinol, benzoyl peroxide, and other over-the-counter acne products.

This is to avoid dryness and irritation.

What are Curology consultation credits?

Each shipment includes a consultation credit which can be used to message your medical provider.

At no additional cost, Curology users can ask their provider skin-related medical questions.

Curology’s mission is to simplify skin care and make prescription-grade products affordable and accessible. According to consumer reviews, Curology does a good job at that.

While online dermatology may not be for everyone, Curology is a worthwhile option for those with concerns related to acne and aging.

Lacey Bourassa is a health, wellness, and beauty writer based in Southern California. She holds a BA in English. Her work has appeared in digital publications like Livestrong, Verywell, Business Insider, Eat This Not That, and others. When she’s not writing, Lacey is likely pursuing her other interests: skin care, plant-based cooking, pilates, and traveling. You can keep up with her by visiting herwebsite or herblog.